19 December 2018
The first full year’s-worth of Police Use of Force statistics have been published.
In April 2017 the Home Office introduced new forms aimed at providing an accurate record of the type and frequency of officers’ use force on a day to day basis. Every time an officer uses any type of force they must report the details.
The figures - which cover April 2017 to March 2018 - show that there were 313,000 recorded incidents in which a police officer used force on someone, with restraint tactics such as handcuffing being the most common type of force used (286,000 times).
The most frequent reason given by officers for the need to use force was to protect themselves (214,000 incidents) and the most common impact factor was the subject being drunk.
However the report acknowledges these figures are not an accurate representation of the total number of incidents involving force as not all of the 43 forces in England and Wales could provide data across the full year.
Simon Kempton, Operational Policing lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales says although they do not give a full picture they certainly provide a sense of what police officers face day in day out.
“The decision to use force of any type is never taken lightly by any officer, and all use of force must be lawful, necessary and reasonable in all circumstances,” he said.
“However it can be the only option when officers need to protect themselves, or members of the public, from dangerous or violent people and the data clearly demonstrates that my colleagues only resort to the use of force where it’s necessary, utilising the minimum level required to deal with the situation."
The figures show that the percentage of incidents dramatically decreases as the level of force increases. There were 17,000 incidents where a Taser was drawn, of those 2,000 instances where it was discharged. For firearms the figure was 3,100 incident where a weapon was drawn and just 12 where it was fired.
Mr Kempton continued: “It is vitally important that these statistics are collated but it is even more important that they are analysed so the training that officers are provided with appropriately mirrors the situations they are encountering on the street.
“They also help inform the policy surrounding tactics and the provision of protective equipment such as Taser and spit guards which are two central issues for the Federation.”
While Mr Kempton welcomes the collection of this data he still has concerns around the methods by which it is gathered.
He continued: “Good progress has been made but more needs to be done. The report highlights the disparity in the way officers record this information. Some officers are still having to complete pages of questions which can take more than 20 minutes whereas in other areas such as the Metropolitan Police the form takes around two to three minutes.
“Many forces are moving to the on-line forms but this can only be viable if they have the IT systems which can support this method and that is not the case in every force. What we need is standardisation across the forces so that all officers complete the same form as efficiently as possible.”